Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Watchfires & Thrones Session #36

With almost a year under our belts, the guys know that I like to throw what I call a “spectacle game” every once and a while. Nothing gets them ready for a game better than to come in and find some special surprise set up on the game table, be it a city street, a cliffside cave, or a spinning maze of death. Since the theme of the campaign is the steady rise to power and influence, I thought it was time to both give the players a taste of mass battle and to pay homage to role-playing’s wargame roots. Thanks to the information provided in Night’s Dark Terror, this session saw the players taking on the roles of armchair generals. Everyone had a great time and it made a nice diversion from dungeon crawling—although they are anxious to get back to Stonehell.

Special thanks go to he who managed to get me a copy of the battle map from Night’s Dark Terror. I have the module in a second-hand, incomplete form and it was missing. I would have gladly paid the $5.00-$10.00 for a PDF of the module and just printed out the maps from that, enriching the coffers of Hasbro a little, but they still remain convinced that hoarding the PDFs of their products makes the best business sense. I think I’ll go buy a Pathfinder PDF on general principle.

As the gates of the barbican slammed shut behind them, the party beheld a young woman with a face streaked by soot and whose hand clenched a bare dagger in a white-knuckled grip. From the roof overhead came the leather-clad man as his zipped down a ladder to the ground below. The smell of smoke grew as the first flames began to spread from the burning barn to the wooden gatehouse in which they stood. The man pointed across the muddy courtyard before them, indicating a two-story hall and hearth made of stone and timber. “Run!” he cried, indicating the stout oak door that stood in the face of the main hall.

The layout of the settlementAs the party crossed the courtyard they could see a three-story stone tower attached to the hall that peered down at them with crenellated eyes. To their left, the settlement’s barn was now an inferno and the palisade that connected it to the tower and gatehouse was a sheet of flame. From out of the smoke came more high-pitched cries and a half-dozen goblins charged through the flames and smoke to cut off the party’s run to safety. Green-skinned and clad in crimson from head to foot, the chittering humanoids were thirty for blood and battle.

While the man and woman continued their run towards the hall’s main door, the rest of the party angled to meet their attackers. Lyrax fired the first of what would be many arrows that night, taking down two of the attackers with arrows through the throat. Raijek’s crossbow dropped a third, and Baragkus, Grumble, and Mars Markus made fast work of the remaining three. With their assailants dead, the rest of the party reached the hall and the warriors held a quick debate over whether they should hold their ground or let themselves be bottled up in the (possibly flammable) hall. Grumble, Mars, Baragkus, and Fisk decided to hold the line while Lyrax, Raijek, Korlack, and Kaldar headed inside to take position atop the stone tower that kept watch overhead.

As the courtyard warriors prepared to dispatch the next wave of goblins, they heard more screaming coming from the smoke around them. The sooty clouds parted briefly to reveal ten wolf-riding goblins racing their way. Then, the slavering fangs and serrated blades of their enemies were upon them.

After Grumble was bitten and stabbed, and Mars Markus took a serious wound, the fighters determined this was one melee they had little chance of winning. Their own attacks had only slightly injured the massive wolves and the goblins’ spears were all too sharp. Mars and Fisk broke and ran through the hall door while Grumble and Baragkus covered their retreat. The spider cleric and hired fighter reached the hall just as the panicked inhabitants of the settlement were closing it, stout locking bar held at the ready. A cry of warning was shouted and the dwarf and fighting man in the yard retreated with haste, taking more wounds as they turned to run. Despite these new injuries, they dove into the hall just before the door was sealed and barred against the invaders.

Inside the rough timber hall, the party made the acquaintances of “Fort” Wolf’s Head’s residents: Pidar, the patriarch of the clan, his wife, Darya, his 10 winters-old son, Matthias, and their aging manservant, Steg. Also in attendance was the weeping, recently widowed, Masha, and her infant daughter. The young couple they had met at the gatehouse was Tars, Pidar’s eldest son, and his wife, Allana. Pidar’s mother, Kumuk and her granddaughter, Irina, were also in the settlement, but were currently cloistered in their room in the tower above.

Pidar explained that two tribes of goblins had attacked the settlement at dusk, striking from out of the woods without warning. There seemed to be two distinct tribes: the orange-skinned wolf riders and the green-skinned, crimson-clad goblins. This attack was one of several which had occurred along the frontier over the last two days. Pidar was hopeful that with the party’s help, the settlement could hold out until dawn, at which time it was likely that the sun-hating goblins would slink back to their lairs. With this information in their possession, the party began making preparations for the long night ahead of them.


Mars originally suggested that everyone retreat to the tower for fear of the goblins torching the hall. But the tower would be a perfect death trap in the goblins broke in so fortifying the hall was undertaken as the next best option. Tables and chairs where broken up to barricade three of the main building’s entrances while the armory was opened and stripped of arrows. Lyrax and Raijek ascended to the tower’s roof to keep an eye on the goblins. Once there, they discovered that full night had fallen and the wan light from the crescent moon mixed with the smoke pouring from the now-charred remains of the barn, gatehouse, and palisade provided limited visibility. In the woods to the north and east they could see a score of small campfires burning, the shadowy bodies of goblins passing in front of these blazes with great frequency. The sound of drumming and chants filled the night air as the goblins prepared for their next attack.

Jud's Grasping Hand!

In the hall below, the party hustled the settlement’s non-combatants down to the tower’s secured lower storeroom. The rest of the family was armed with bows and slings, and then stationed about the building to overlook the north and south courtyards. Baragkus dragged the hall’s largest chair to in front of the main door and sat with sword in hand to wait the inevitable attempt to break in. Kaldar and Korlack kept watch from the hall’s second story on the courtyard to the south. Grumble and Mars took up position in the tower armory, but not before learning that Pidar’s mother was a cleric of the Sovereign Flame when she healed the spider priest of his wounds. Fisk prowled the halls, a free safety ready to run where needed.

An hour after dark, those on the tower found themselves under attack by goblin snipers, slingstones smashing against the stone walls and battlements surrounding them. The darkness and cover made missile fire difficult for both sides, but when Grumble’s shortbow finally picked off one of the hidden snipers, the barrage of slingstones fell quiet.

As the night crept closer to midnight, the sound of drums ceased and a stillness filled the air. Then, from out of the gloom came a charge of goblins. Two wolf-riders led a half-score of infantry across the wooden bridge as another ten skulked through the shadows to take up position in the smoking ruin of the barn. As the wolf-riders and their soldiers laid siege to the hall’s kitchen door (which had been barricaded stoutly), the barn-hiding goblins began letting loose a fusillade of slingstones at any visible defender.

Lyrax dropped a pair of flaming brands into the courtyard, which allowed the defenders in the tower and those in the room above the kitchen to see their targets easily. Lit by the flames, the two worg-riders found themselves under concentrated attack by missile fire and they only managed to strike the door a few times before they fell to ground dead. Their underlings’ morale broke upon their deaths and they fled for the bridge that brought them.

Korlack rushed to one window, taking a vicious hit from a slingstone when he revealed himself. With his lack of protective armor, the warlock paused to wonder why it was that the plate-mail clad spider cleric was the one positioned behind an arrowslit while he was put on window detail. Deciding enough was enough; the sorcerer turned and entered the tower, finding shelter with Kumuk and Irina. The matronly cleric took pity on the injured magic-user and used her last curative spell to heal him.

Kaldar, despite seeing what happened when Korlack revealed himself, cautiously worked his way to a window that overlooked the barn below. Conjuring up a magical slumber, the elf took out most of the hiding goblins and the barrage of slingstones dropped off to a patter. Unfortunately, one of these stones struck Allana, knocking the woman senseless.

With most of the goblin slingers asleep, the defenders were able to concentrate their attacks on the few remaining snipers and it wasn’t long before they too fled back into the darkness. Raijek and Fisk went out to quickly dispatch the slumbering goblins.

The party took the opportunity to further shore up their defenses after this attack, plundering iron stock from the settlement’s forge to lay a series of obstacles about the hall. The unconscious Allana was turned over to Kumuk to attend to, and new positions were taken up around the hall. There came a period of anticipation an hour later when the drums again stopped, but they resumed after a half hour’s pause. The goblins were well-versed in psychological warfare.

It was deep into the night, midnight several hours behind them when the next attack came. Grumble, Lyrax, and his dog companion stood on the tower roof, watching the woods around them. Grumble’s bushy ears detected the sound of great leathery wings in the air above, and the dwarf glanced up to see three warm bodies dropping out of the night sky to attack. Within moments, the rooftop trio found themselves under siege by giant vampire bats!

Meanwhile, down in the hall, Kaldar’s keen ears detected the sound of breaking glass. He cautiously crept forward with bow in hand…

Back on the roof, the first bat landed atop Lyrax’s dog, delivering a painful bite and causing the canine to begin twitching and frothing out the mouth before falling motionless. Grumble and Lyrax glanced at each other and mouthed “Poison” as they fought against the flying menaces, now with a heightened sense of fear.

In the corridor below, Kaldar peered around a corner to see two more of the giant bats awkwardly climbing through a broken window. “Crickey!” he cried. “Look at the size of those beauties!” That was enough to draw Baragkus’ attention and the so far unneeded fighter dashed up the stairs to take on these new foes. Unfortunately, Kaldar’s cries also attracted the attention of Darya who had been stationed in the room across from where the bats entered. As she opened the door to see what was amiss, one of the creatures launched itself at her and the two combatants stumbled back into the room out of sight.

Up on the roof, Grumble managed to dispatch one of the bats, but the remaining two put up a stiffer fight. The dwarf took a bite for his efforts, but was able to resist the bat’s paralytic enzymes. Lyrax’s arrows dropped a second bat just as Grumble launched a flurry of axe swings at his own opponent. With a solid “thunk,” the axe met meat and the flying assailants were dispatched completely. In the hall below, Baragkus made short work of the bats with his great sword, but not before Darya had succumbed to the bite of the bat and fell into a deep coma. She too joined the unconscious Allana under Kumuk’s care.

Dawn was fast approaching and the defenders, although tired, found their spirits on the rise. Just another hour or two and victory would be theirs. They were injured, half-delirious with exhaustion, and completely out of spells, but the sun would be their salvation. It was with these thoughts in their heads that the sound of drums stopped one final time.

To the east, Lyrax and Grumble saw a horde of goblins appear at the tree line, a score and a half in all. Great, tall ladders were held in their green hands and they stared with undisguised menace at the unprotected windows along the halls’ eastern flank. With one last chant, the mass of goblin attackers charged out of the woods and headed towards the hall.

The goblin horde prepares to charge!

Lyrax and Grumble began firing at the charging horde, with the human archer cutting down goblins like a scythe. Arrow after arrow connected to send his targets falling to the ground to be trampled by their comrades. Grumble kept up a steady rain of death as well, and soon found himself to be on the last of his arrows.

Inside the hall, the defenders scrambled to meet the goblin charge. Kaldar and Raijek bravely fought against the first of the goblins to reach the wall while Mars and Fisk raced down the stairs to support them. Korlack, with no spells remaining, grabbed a sling and pouch of stones to join Grumble and Lyrax on the tower. Baragkus remained seated near the main door, suspecting this might be a feint.

As the goblin ladders were thrown up against the walls, the party found themselves locked in one last, desperate melee. Goblins were cut down as they topped the rungs, ladders were pushed away to send their climbers falling to their deaths amongst the horde below, and all the while, Lyrax, Grumble, and Korlack continued to rain destruction down upon the screaming masses. Under their hellish hail, more than half the goblin’s numbers perished within the shadow of the hall’s eastern wall. Grumble unleashed his last arrow before throwing his bow at a goblin’s darting head and then rushed down the stairs to join the melee.

Several of the goblin attackers managed to clamber through an unguarded window and stabbed at the unarmored Raijek while others clashed with the armored form of Mars. Down on the hall’s ground floor, Baragkus finally heard what he had been waiting for—the sound of axes hacking at the main door. Gripping his sword in hand, he took up position next to the barricaded portal, Pidar joining him on the other side. After thirty seconds of hewing away at the valve, the door gave to admit a trio of the largest goblins Baragkus had ever seen, each clad in crimson and led by a battle-axe swinging warlord. The fighting man clashed with the humanoid potentate as Pidar slashed at one of his henchmen. Raijek abandoned the battle upstairs to bolster the defenses at the front door as Grumble arrived from the tower.

Outside, the last of the goblins perished under Lyrax’s arrows and the scattered numbers inside the hall were cut down by Kaldar, Mars, Fisk, Grumble, and Tars. The last goblin stared at the steel wall arrayed before him…and dived out an open window to land on the hard ground below with the sound of snapping bones. Struggling to his feet, he limped away, straining to reach the safety of the forest. Lyrax nocked one last arrow and sent it barreling through the goblin’s chest, dropping him to the muddy ground with one arm still outstretched towards the forest’s gloomy sanctuary.

In the main hall, Baragkus and the goblin leader remained locked in battle. One of the goblin’s bodyguards moved to flank the towering fighter while the other pressed his assault against Pidar. The clan patriarch lost his footing on the blood-streaked planks of the floor…and his goblin opponent ran him through with his blade, dropping the stout frontiersman to the cold, bloody floor, dead. With his host slain, Baragkus went into a rage and started to hack through the goblin king’s defenses. Raijek arrived just in time to stem off the bodyguards’ counteroffensive.

Jack ponders the final battle. How can I ensure I survive?

Moment later, the goblin king’s head sailed across the hall, tumbling to a halt in a dusty, forsaken corner of the room; his bodyguards fell dead in the doorway soon after. The defenders were victorious!

As the sun rose above the trees, the party stared wearily about at the destruction surrounding them. This would just be the beginning of their quest to end the hobgoblin threat to the Uncertain Lands.

Recaps will resume in two weeks. See you then!


  1. love the "sinister" look on B.A. and Mars during the combat sequences! classic!

  2. I don't know, I think B.A. had a happy kid at Christmas look on his face.